My name is Billy and I am a volunteer with the AYCC in Victoria. I first heard about the AYCC through a friend during a discussion we were having about potential volunteer opportunities. She recommended them highly, and with climate change being something I already had an interest in, I was soon signing my first petitions and then expressed an interest to volunteer.
"After a long day at work, when I close my eyes, etched onto my eyelids is an image of blue shirts.”- if that isn’t tribute to the pure determination and persistence of the AYCC then I don’t know what is."- Mark Butler
As a science student, I am continually confronted with the grim potentialities of uncontrolled Climate Change in the future. I realize now that, growing up in the Port Adelaide area, I always took for granted its natural beauty and unique environment.
I grew up near the beach, running down for a swim whenever I wanted, spending hours fossicking for shells, making sea grass mermaids and following dolphins along the jetty in their coastal flirtations. I’m sure that is what it was like for many who grew up in my area, and the many kids living here now.
I began to see how Climate Change would seriously affect and alter the environments I loved. As a coastal community, the Port is one of many communities in Australia that will be extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. Its communities will be threatened by sea levels rising, its marine ecosystems and many rare species of endemic sea grass by ocean acidification, its beautiful old buildings by accelerated chemical weathering and an increased frequency of severe storms. That’s why I decided to get involved in the AYCC’s Safe Climate Roadmap. I wanted to do as much as I could to preserve the environment I loved.
I found that many people loved my community’s environment as much as I did. Even if they did not astutely follow politics, they were eager to sign and support the Roadmap in the hope of preserving an environment they strongly identified themselves, and their families, with. Even more encouragingly, many tourists I met visiting the Port’s well-known landmarks were also happy to pledge their support. Despite some having only been there for an afternoon, they recognized that this was a precious environment that needed environmental protection.
A large proportion of running a successful campaign is hanging around collecting signatures and support. As I spent more time in the Port’s community spaces collecting signatures, I also realized how important the local environment is as a place of reunion and relaxed congregation. One Sunday when I was out petitioning at the Fisherman’s Wharf Markets, one family had as many as 10 family members who were all ecstatic about going on a dolphin cruise. I realised that this is what the science cannot quantify, the huge value of environment to a community’s identity and sense of unity.
As it turns out, the Port Area is the electorate represented by Shadow Minister for the Environment, Mark Butler. Consequently, getting the communities he represented to show their support for strong action on climate change is an incremental step in prompting a positive political response to the campaign in South Australia.
Following the evident link between community identity and environment, we decided to hold our big event at the Port Adelaide Lighthouse, an iconic building in the Port. Beneath this bright red tower we presented Mark Butler with the many signatures and open letters we had collected over the past few months from local businesses, community groups and individuals, each pledging their support for strong political action on climate change. I was deeply gratified to be able to speak at the event, because I felt as though I was finally making headway in preserving the environment I cherished.
Mark Butler’s speech was also encouraging. He seemed to recognize the huge importance of environment to community identity and unity. Even more encouragingly, he commented that "After a long day at work, when I close my eyes, etched onto my eyelids is an image of blue shirts.”- if that isn’t tribute to the pure determination and persistence of the AYCC then I don’t know what is!
The science behind climate change is our strong backbone of evidence, but it is the passion of the community for their local habitat that has really driven this campaign forward. I want others many years from now to frolic on beaches, picnic by rivers and spot dolphins as I did as a kid, and I am now certain that the Port Adelaide Community fully agrees.